Fresh Perspectives on Motion Pictures

Variety, December 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

Fresh Perspectives on Motion Pictures


MICHAEL ARNDT

ON "THE FAVOURITE"

Written by Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara

LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I spend Monday to Friday being polite and responsible. So when I go to the movies on Friday night, I want to watch people being as rude and reckless as possible. On that score, "The Favourite" delivers - taking the most respectable film genre - the costume drama - and making it dirty, disreputable and fun. But underneath its wit and beauty, director Yorgos Lanthimos and screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara deliver a bracingly caustic study of love, ambition and the corrosive effects of inherited wealth and dynastic power. Set three centuries ago, "The Favourite" speaks to our times like few other films this year.

Michael Arndt Is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "Little Miss Sunshine." He also penned the screenplays for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Toy Story 3."

PETER ASHER

ON "GREEN BOOK"

Written by Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga

"GREEN BOOK" HAS BEEN described as a "feel good" movie - a description that is not always encouraging. But in this instance the film really does have that effect - and for all the best reasons. With a convincingly real screenplay (Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly) and a brilliant cast (sensitively directed by Farrelly), it manages to address major historical and sociological issues while remaining at heart a film about friendship and family, about discovery and about the human ability to learn and to change - which is all the more exciting in that it is based upon a true story.

I was further delighted to discover very quickly that this is also a "sounds good" film! Music plays a significant role in the story itself and the soundtrack is extraordinary. It is rare for films about a prodigious musical talent to be truly convincing but the performances by the "Don Shirley trio" as they occur in the film entirely justify their rapturous reception and make the fact that Dr. Shirley's devoted fans in real life included both Stravinsky and Duke Ellington thoroughly credible. And the rest of the music in the film is impeccably chosen (I heard Sonny Boy Williamson, Aretha, Chubby Checker and The Clovers and many more great tracks I did not recognize) and perfectly integrated into the elegant and evocative score by Kris Bowers. It is perhaps worth noting that just as Dr. Shirley was compelled to address the iniquitous racism of that era (and as we are compelled to consider how much has changed - and how much has NOT) there is, in a way, a musical parallel. The world of classical music looked down on pop music and even on jazz (despite its complexity and technical demands) with an unremitting snootiness which has only abated in the last decade or so. Even though Don Shirley was perhaps forced to invent his own musical world (one which integrated these various genres) by racist and commercial pressures, the result was original, brilliant and way ahead of its time - and this is reflected in the film. Where else could we hear the pianistic genius of Chopin and Little Richard or the compositions of Debussy and Professor Longhair treated with equal respect?

I confess I knew nothing about Dr. Shirley, his story or his music before I saw this film - but I am thrilled by the discovery.

And yes; I feel good!

Peter Asher is a British guitarist, singer, manager and record producer He came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the pop music vocal duo Peter and Gordon before going on to a successful career as a manager and record producer

JON ROBIN BAITZ

ON "BEN IS BACK"

Written by Peter Hedges

IN THE OPENING SEQUENCE of Peter Hedges' "Ben Is Back," Ben's much younger siblings are at church, rehearsing for a Christmas chorale, dressed as an angel and sheep, respectively. Their mother, Holly, is helpful, smiling and laughing. This is as close to a warm holiday movie that it gets. …

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